Sooner or later, many families face the prospect of moving. Disruptive as moving
can be for parents, the experience can be even more traumatic for kids, who may not
be a part of the decision to move and might not understand it.
Kids can need some time and special attention during the transition. Try these
tips to make the process less stressful for everyone.
Making the Decision to Move
Many kids thrive on familiarity and routine. So as you consider a move, weigh the
benefits of that change against the comfort that established surroundings, school,
and social life give your kids.
If your family has recently dealt with a major life change, such as divorce
or death, you may want to
postpone a move, if possible, to give kids time to adjust.
The decision to move may be out of your hands, perhaps due to a job transfer or
financial issues. Even if you're not happy about the move, try to maintain a positive
attitude about it. During times of transition, a parent's moods and attitudes can
greatly affect kids, who may be looking for reassurance.
Discussing the Move With Kids
No matter what the circumstances, the most important way to prepare kids to move
is to talk about it.
Try to give them as much information about the move as soon as possible. Answer
questions completely and truthfully, and be receptive to both positive and negative
reactions. Even if the move means an improvement in family life, kids don't always
understand that and may be focused on the frightening aspects of the change.
Involving kids in the planning as much as possible makes them feel like participants
in the house-hunting process or the search for a new school. This can make the change
feel less like it's being forced on them.
If you're moving across town, try to take your kids to visit the new house (or
see it being built) and explore the new neighborhood.
For distant moves, provide as much information as you can about the new home, city,
and state (or country). Access the Internet to learn about the community. Learn where
kids can participate in favorite activities. See if a relative, friend, or even a
real estate agent can take pictures of the new house and new school for your child.
Moving With Toddlers and Preschoolers
Kids younger than 6 may be the easiest to move, as they have a limited capacity
to understand the changes involved. Still, your guidance is crucial.
Here are ways to ease the transition for young kids:
Keep explanations clear and simple.
Use a story to explain the move, or use toy trucks and furniture to act it out.
When you pack your toddler's toys in boxes, make sure to explain that you aren't
throwing them away.
If your new home is nearby and vacant, go there to visit before the move and take
a few toys over each time.
Hold off on getting rid of your child's old bedroom furniture, which may provide
a sense of comfort in the new house. It might even be a good idea to arrange furniture
in a similar way in the new bedroom.
Avoid making other big changes during the move, like toilet training or advancing
a toddler to a bed from a crib.
Arrange for your toddler or preschooler to stay with a babysitter on moving day.
Moving With School-Age Kids
Kids in elementary school may be relatively open to a move, but still need serious
consideration and help throughout the transition.
There are two schools of thought about "the right time to move." Some experts say
that summer is the best time because it avoids disrupting the school year. Others
say that midyear is better because a child can meet other kids right away.
To avoid glitches that would add stress, gather any information the new school
will need to process the transfer. That may include the most recent report card or
transcript, birth certificate, and medical records.
Moving With Teens
It's common for teens to actively rebel against a move. Your teen has probably
invested considerable energy in a particular social group and might be involved in
a romantic relationship. A move may mean that your teen will miss a long-awaited event,
like a prom.
It's particularly important to let teens know that you want to hear their concerns
and that you respect them. While blanket assurances may sound dismissive, it's legitimate
to suggest that the move can serve as rehearsal for future changes, like college or
a new job. However, also be sure to let them know that you hear their concerns.
After the move, consider planning a visit back to the old neighborhood, if it's
feasible. Also, see if if the teen can return for events like prom or homecoming.
If you're moving midway through a school year, you might want to consider letting
an older teen stay in the old location with a friend or relative, if that's an option.
After Moving Day
After the move, try to get your child's room in order before turning your attention
to the rest of the house. Also, try to maintain your regular schedule for meals and
bedtime to give kids a sense of familiarity.
When your child does start school, you may want to go along to meet as many teachers
as possible or to introduce your child to the principal.
Set realistic expectations about the transition. Generally, teachers expect new
kids to feel somewhat comfortable in their classes in about 6 weeks. Some kids need
less time; others might need more. Encourage your child or teen to keep up with old
friends through phone calls, video chats, parent-approved social media, and other
ways to stay connected.
After the move, if you're still concerned about your child's transition, a family
therapist might provide some helpful guidance.
A move can present many challenges, but good things also come from this kind of
change. Your family might grow closer and you may learn more about each other by going
through it together.